Why You Shouldn’t Play It Safe With Your Engagement Photos

My husband and I are bona fide goofballs that are more interested in laughing at each other than looking like “the perfect couple”, so when it came time to discuss engagement photos, we both kind of rolled our eyes at the idea. We’re not really the kind of people who walk in a meadow holding hands as the sun sets (is anyone? …why?), but then he came up with an interesting idea: what if we did a photo shoot that we could *gasp* have FUN with?

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We had a hard time keeping straight faces

We’re both non-traditional people. We don’t care about adhering to standards set by society, and we do what we want to do; we’re a modern couple…the opposite of the 50s household, where the husband goes to work from 9-5, and the wife takes care of the house (in heels!) and has dinner on the table by the time he gets home. So, why not do a photo shoot where we bring it back old school?

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Am I doing this right?

Our photographer made sure to get a few romantic shots that were sure to appease our parents, but overall, the photos are nontraditional. I didn’t have the desire to take engagement photos that look exactly like everyone else’s….and I am so happy that we didn’t. Our photos are unique, but more importantly, they’re us.

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Lucy & Desi

There’s nothing wrong with traditional engagement photos…but you’re celebrating your union as a couple. Shouldn’t your photos reflect the kind of people you are together? If you’re super romantic people, then yeah, go for that…but if you aren’t, don’t force it just because that’s what you think should do. Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of formal shots at the wedding. Choose a photographer who will let you do what you want to do, and have some fun with it…you’ll love the pictures that much more!

The photo we used for our Save-the-Dates

All photos by Jeffrey Lewis Bennett from jlbwedding.com.

7 Essential Bridesmaid Dress Shopping Tips

YES, a part of the wedding planning process you’ll actually enjoy! Bridesmaid dress shopping is so much fun. It’s like trying on homecoming dresses, but this time you get to pick what your friend wears!

Bridesmaid Dress Shopping Tips

You’ll need to shop for bridesmaid dresses a minimum of six months before the big day. It takes 3-4 months for dresses to come in after ordering, and you have to leave enough time for alterations. I actually recommend shopping at least 8 months in advance if possible so you can check it off of your to-do list and your bridesmaids who need some time to get the cash together are able to get the dress ordered in time.

Here’s a list of bridesmaid dress shopping tips to keep everyone in the bridal party happy.

  • Scope the salon out. Don’t just choose a salon on a whim, or you may be in for a rude surprise when dresses don’t come in on time (or at all!). Check online reviews, visit in person to see how friendly the consultants are, and ALWAYS book an appointment in advance.
  • Respect everyone’s body type. Every person in your bridal party is going to have a different shape, height and skin tone. That’s why, if possible, you need to ask all of your bridesmaids to try on dresses. What looks great on one person may not on another.
  • Make sure it’s comfortable. You don’t want to be dealing with cranky bridesmaids on your wedding day because their circulation is being cut off. Likewise, you want them on the dance floor, right? They’re not going to dance if they can’t move. Ask them to sit down and move around in it and whether they think they’ll be able to dance in it without an issue.
  • Pick something appropriate for the venue. If you’re getting married in a church, you don’t want to choose something too short or low cut. If you’re getting married outside in the summer time, you don’t want to choose a fabric that’s heavy or a dress that’s long. Choose a dress that goes with your wedding look.

bridesmaid dress shopping tips

  • Avoid a hodge podge. If you don’t want all of your bridesmaids to wear the same dress, that’s your prerogative…just be sure to avoid everyone looking like a mess in the process. Try choosing different dresses in the same color from one designer. If you want different colors, stick to two and make sure that they complement each other. Choosing something too similar makes some of the dresses look new and others look old, and some colors just clash together.  No matter what, choose one length; mixing lengths makes the bridal party look a bit messy.
  • Ask your bridesmaids’ opinion. You don’t want to them to suffer in silence if they’re totally uncomfortable with your choice. It’s ultimately your decision, but if all your friends hate it, maybe try something else. If you have one bridesmaid who can’t seem to be pleased, ask your Maid of Honor to step in and shut down any rude or distracting comments. You don’t need to deal with sassy bridesmaids. They’re supposed to be there to make your time easier!
  • Be mindful of price. Unless you want to pay for the bridesmaid dresses, you have to think about what your bridesmaids consider affordable and set a maximum budget. Be sure to verify that the salon you choose has tons of options in your price range. If you’re totally in the dark about price, call a bridesmaids lunch and ask their opinions about it before you go shopping. After shopping, put your Maid of Honor in charge of making sure that all the bridesmaids order their dresses before the deadline.

Make a day of it and go out to lunch afterward. It’ll be a great bonding experience for everyone, and it’s a positive day in an otherwise stressful time.

How Much Should I Spend on a Wedding Gift?

How Much Should I Spend on a Wedding Gift?

Being invited to a wedding is a special honor- and that honor comes with some responsibilities. Some sites will tell you that wedding gifts are not a requirement, but that’s a bunch of B.S. Here are the most FAQs answered when it comes to wedding gifts.

How much should I spend on wedding gifts? The average wedding gift is around $100. Here’s the breakdown of the total you and your significant other should spend on the couple getting married:

Distant relative, co-worker, or someone whom you aren’t close to: $50

Friend or relative: $100

Close friend or relative: $150 – $300

Child or grandchild: Whatever you can comfortably give. If you’re paying for the wedding, consider a family heirloom or a sentimental gift over spending more money.

In areas of wealth, these numbers go up, but if you aren’t in that position yourselves, stick to this guide. If you’re bringing kids to the wedding, you should give a little extra on their behalf because each person costs the bride and groom money at the reception.

What about if I can’t make the wedding? Unless you’ve never met the couple getting married, you should send a gift. Invitations and postage cost money, and they extended the offer of being a part of their day, so you should send them something to offer your congratulations. Send a card with a check or gift card, or purchase a gift from their registry that can be shipped directly to their house. You can spend less since you didn’t attend the wedding. You have a year from the wedding date to send a gift. If you don’t at least send a card, that’s pretty rude…you’re basically not acknowledging that they got married!

Is cash okay? I think any bride or groom will tell you that cash is more than okay. They’ve just dropped a ton of money on the wedding, so getting some of that money back to put into savings or put towards their honeymoon is extremely helpful. This is especially true for couples who have lived together for a while and don’t need as many household items as a couple who is just putting together their home. If you’re writing a check, resist the urge to write the bride’s first name with her groom’s last name; not everyone changes their name, and those that do usually don’t do it right away, hindering them from cashing the check.

What about shower gifts? You can spend less on shower gifts than wedding gifts. Spend guideline:

Friend or distant relative: $30 – $60

Close friend or relative: $75 – $150

The big ticket items, such as a complete set of cookware or china, are usually reserved for parents and grandparents, so don’t sweat those items on the registry.

If you are invited to a shower and can’t attend, use your judgment on whether you should still give a gift. It’s certainly not required, but if you’re good friends with the bride, you should still at least send a card with a gift card where she’s registered.

Do I still have to buy a present if I was a bridesmaid? Yes. Being a bridesmaid is no simple (or cheap) task, so you may think that the shower you threw and the help you gave is gift enough. You absolutely should still give a gift, for both the shower and the wedding. If you’re in financial straits, go in on a larger gift with the bridesmaids where you can share the cost, and for the wedding, try giving a handmade gift. It’ll be easy on your wallet and your friend will appreciate the heartfelt gesture.

What about destination weddings? I’m already paying for accommodations! Yes, you still have to give a gift, but you don’t have to spend as much considering the cost to come to the wedding. Destination weddings tend to have a smaller guest list, so remember that when you receive an invitation to one, that usually means that the bride and groom really want you to be there. They’ll absolutely appreciate you taking the time and money to celebrate their special day, so though a gift is just a cherry on top, you should still give one.

Do I have to give a gift at a second wedding if I gave one for the first one? Technically, you do not have to give a gift for a second wedding if you attended and gave a gift at the first wedding, but I highly recommend at least a card and small gift to extend your well wishes to this marriage. Handmade gifts, such as a personalized cutting board or picture frame, are unique gifts the couple will love that won’t cost you a ton of money.

how much should i spend on a wedding gift?

Brides: Don’t assume that every person will follow this guideline, or even that every guest will give a gift! Yes, you will have some rude guests that don’t give you anything…it’s just part of the process. The good news is that some of your guests (especially your parents’ good friends) will be extra generous. Try not to dwell on how much each person gives you and remember that every person’s situation is different. Be gracious about any gift you receive, regardless of value. That’s not the important part of the day.

7 Tips for Staying on Track with Bridal Fitness

7 Tips for Staying on Track with Bridal Fitness

Most people want to get in shape for their wedding, but it can be difficult to make yourself work out when you’re so stressed and busy. Here are some realistic tips to help keep you on track:

  1. Start off slow. Don’t expect to work out six days a week when you’re starting from no workouts at all…allow yourself to be a beginner. Try 20 minute workouts three times a week to start, and gradually increase your time and days. Always leave at least one day per week as a rest day.
  2. Get a workout buddy. You’re much more likely to make yourself work out if you’re held accountable by another person, plus it makes working out way more fun.
  3. Find a workout that you like. Some people prefer hitting weights at the gym, some prefer to run or bike outside, some prefer workout classes such as yoga or pilates, and others prefer to play a sport. There is no “right way” to get or stay fit as long as you’re moving. Anything you enjoy you’ll be much more likely to stay on task with.
  4. Keep track of your workouts. Use a calendar to keep track of what days you worked out, how long, and what you did. It’ll help you see when you’ve been slacking, but it’ll also make you feel accomplished when you’re staying on track and increasing the intensity.
  5. Set realistic goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t expect to lose it all right away and get frustrated with lack of progress. 1-2 lbs per week weight loss is healthy. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
  6. Get back on the horse. It’s hard to start working out, but even harder to keep working out. If you miss a week (or more) because you’re busy or not feeling well, get right back on track the following week. Don’t let a few missed days lead you to give up.
  7. Reward yourself. Set a goal for yourself, and once you’ve reached that goal, show yourself some love for a job well done. Maybe it’s a new pair of jeans, maybe it’s a massage. Treat yourself to something you’ve earned with all of your hard work.

Remember that exercise is a healthy way to deal with stress, which is a perfect outlet for brides-to-be. Never give up- you’ll not only be happy with the results for your body, but for your mind as well. For additional realistic workout and nutrition tips, visit LauraKennett.com.

5 Ways to Make Your Wedding Day Last Forever

5 Ways to Make Your Wedding Day Last Forever

Once the big day is over and done with, many brides feel a little empty. In fact, post-wedding depression is an actual ailment. It’s no surprise; you’ve been spending months working like crazy on one major life event, and just like that, it’s over. You can’t go back in time, but you can capture the essence of your wedding and share it with your new spouse for years to come. Here are some ways to keep the feeling of your wedding alive and well:

    1. Get your wedding dress preserved. One of the things brides hate the most post-wedding is that they’ll never have an opportunity to wear their wedding gown again. If you get it professionally preserved, you can ask for a clear front box so you can see it all the time- just be sure to keep it out of sunlight. Who knows, maybe your daughter will wear your dress one day!


  1. Frame your vows. This is an especially great one if you guys wrote your own vows. You can send your vows to a company that superimposes them over one of your wedding photos, which looks amazing.
    5 ways to make your wedding day last forever3. Document your engagement experience. If you’re like me and you aren’t super creative or need help getting started, I recommend getting the Bride to Be book. There are areas to journal how you feel and spaces for pictures, stories, wedding stationery, and mementos from your honeymoon! It’s a really fun wedding project for you and your fiance to do together that won’t end in tears (at least not the sad kind.)
    5 ways to make your wedding day last forever
    4. Get a shadow box. There’s no limit to what you can put in there. A copy of your invitation, photos of you guys seeing each other for the first time, your preserved bouquet…anything that reminds you of what an amazing day it was, stick it in the shadow box.
    5 ways to make your wedding day last forever
    5. Take a look at your spouse. The real magic wasn’t the event itself. It was that you took a day to commit to each other for life, and everyone meaningful to you shared in a celebration of your love. Don’t assume that the good stuff is over; it’s just beginning.


How to Host an At-Home Wedding Without Losing Your Mind

Holding your wedding at your home or your parents’ home can be an amazing experience. You’re starting a new life in a place you’ve experienced other milestones and incredible times. Backyard weddings are especially great for brides looking for an intimate gathering. Without proper planning, though, it can cause even more anxiety on top of the normal stress of wedding planning. Here are some tips for how to host an at-home wedding:

  • Start grooming your lawn now. The earlier you can get weeds pulled, flowers planted, and sod down, the better.
  • Check for any permits needed. Most cities require at least one permit to host a gathering taking up tons of parking that will have music and laughter going until the wee hours.
  • Have a backup plan for the ceremony. If it starts to rain or the wind is too gusty, have an area inside the house that’s ready to hold your guests.
  • You’ll have to rent more items than you would at other venues. Tables, chairs, plates, bowls, silverware, glassware, linens, an altar, a sound system, lighting, a dance floor, and a generator are all necessary rentals for a backyard wedding.
  • Have a tent set up for the reception. If it’s a hot day, your guests may need some reprieve from the sun. If it’s raining, a tent will keep you dry. You never know what the weather has in store until the day of the wedding, so you have to be prepared.
  • Don’t rid yourself of all vendors. An at-home wedding is a great way to save money, but if you’re trying to DIY most things, you must still hire a caterer and photographer. Do not entrust these huge responsibilities to amateurs. Trust me, it’s money well spent.
  • Vendors should visit your home in advance. Each vendor requires different amenities (for example, caterers need fridge and kitchen space), so invite them to check out the ceremony location so they’ll know in advance if they have to bring anything extra.
  • You’ll have to rent port-o-potties. Unless your event is going to be held at a mansion with multiple bathrooms, you have to account for the number of guests that will be flushing the toilet, and one can only handle so much. Have one toilet available for every 25 guests. Gussy them up with amenity baskets of hand towels, mints, air fresheners, combs, and body spray.
  • Rearrange your furniture. Right now, your home is probably not set up to accommodate a party, so move indoor and outdoor furniture out of the way and make large open spaces where people can gather and your vendors have room to maneuver.
  • Hire a housekeeper the last couple of weeks before the wedding. Don’t try to clean the house yourself! You’ll have so much going on that cleaning will be an added area of stress that you really won’t have time for. The cost of a housekeeper for this is worth every penny.
  • Don’t forget about your pets. If your dog or cat gets anxious around a big group, you may want to consider boarding them at a daycare for the night. If you’re keeping your dog around to be a part of the day, make sure you have someone in charge of picking up after them!
  • Rent a block of rooms at a nearby hotel. Don’t forego this just because you’re getting married at home…otherwise, drunk guests may try to stay the night! Block some rooms as you would for any other venue and create a sign urging your guests to take an Uber when they leave so they don’t drink and drive.
  • Let your neighbors know. You don’t have to invite them if you aren’t close with them, but you should let them know in advance to expect some noise. A small gift such as a bottle of wine isn’t necessary but will likely make them more easygoing about it.
  • Enlist help. Backyard weddings tend to have a lot of DIY elements. DO NOT try to do everything yourself. You’ll tear your hair out. Your bridesmaids and parents are there to help you, so let them!
  • Don’t assume an at-home wedding has to be any less glamorous than any other wedding. Your decor should still be cohesive and can be just as nice as any other wedding. The details are what will set your wedding apart: string lights inside the tent, elegant beverage containers holding your signature drink, personalized favors and decor, food labels for each dish, and a food truck that stops by for a late night snack are small ways to show that a backyard wedding can be the chicest and most personal of them all.

How to Insure Your Engagement Ring (And Why You Should)

Your engagement ring doesn’t just have monetary value, but sentimental value as well. If something happens to your ring, whether it’s stolen, lost, or your husband accidentally smashes it with a baseball bat like I read on one forum, you need to be covered so you can get it replaced.

Here’s what you need to know about insuring your engagement ring.

  • You’ll need an appraisal. A respectable jeweler should provide an appraisal for your ring, but if they don’t, you can research gemologists in your area that provide the service; the cost is relatively low. Appraisals should list the 4 Cs…Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat weight. Your insurance company won’t be able to insure your ring without it.
  • Take photos of the ring. Your insurance company may require it, but even if they don’t, you should have photos on hand in case you need to make a claim.
  • Insurance is low cost. It costs approximately $10 a year per $1,000 value of the ring. So a ring that costs $5,000 will be about $50 a year, but will be slightly more if your plan does not have a deductible. If you’re using the same company as your homeowner’s insurance, they may attach a rider specifically insuring the ring.
  • Ask questions about the policy. Every scenario is not covered by all companies; some may only cover the ring if it’s stolen, not damaged or lost. Ask about situations where the ring wouldn’t be insured, and make sure that they will cover the entire cost of the ring. Choose a plan that has full coverage for any situation.
  • You may not need to insure your wedding ring since the price is significantly lower than an engagement ring. Do the math and decide if it’s worth it to you to spend the money to insure it or if you can handle replacing it instead.
  • Re-appraise to adjust for inflation. Your ring is likely to go up in value over time, so be sure to get an updated appraisal at least every five years so that if something does happen, you can get the same ring without having to go into your own pocket to cover the higher price tag.

Shit happens…way more than you think it does. Even if you treat your ring like a newborn baby, there’s no guarantee that the center stone won’t fall out or that someone won’t break into your house and steal your valuables. The peace of mind is absolutely worth the small price.

The Pros & Cons of Buying Off the Rack

The Pros & Cons of Buying a Wedding Dress Off the Rack

Not everyone wants to spend thousands of dollars on a bridal gown, and some brides can’t wait the 6-9 months for a dress to come in. For these brides, buying a gown “off the rack”, meaning buying a gown that’s already in the store that was once a sample gown, is a great option. However, there are some cons to not ordering your own gown. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of buying off the rack.


  • They are usually much less expensive.
  • You take your dress home the same day. This is especially great for brides who are within a few months of their wedding date.
  • Your dress will be available to you when looking for shoes, a veil, and bridal jewelry that match perfectly.
  • You might forget what the dress looks like during the months it takes an ordered dress to come in. Trust me, it can happen. The way your mind remembers the dress will never be exactly how it really looks.


    • There may be stains, rips, loose threads, or missing beadwork from the dress being tried on several times.
    • The material may be of cheap quality.
    • The dress you like may not come in your size. (Don’t choose something way too big or way too small- you’ll end up spending just as much on alterations as you would if you had ordered a gown).
    • Custom changes can’t be made. For gowns that are ordered, some designers will make custom changes such as adding a sleeve or changing a skirt, and you won’t have that luxury if you purchase a dress off the rack.


Weigh your options carefully and choose the decision that fits your needs the best. Just remember, don’t buy any gown- off the rack or not- unless you’re in love with it.

Everything You Need to Know About Engagement Parties

Engagement parties are not a necessity, but they’re a fun way to show off your new bling, your happiness with your fiancé, and get your friends together to celebrate! So, who hosts this bash, and what’s it all about?

An engagement party is traditionally hosted by the bride’s parents, but it’s not unusual for someone else or the couple to host this party themselves, as long as the bride’s parents get first dibs. (It’s seen as déclassé for parents or the couple to host your own bridal shower, so this is the only party you’ll get to throw until the wedding.) Engagement parties are typically thrown anywhere from right after the engagement to three months later.

Engagement parties range from ultra casual to luxuriously chic. It’s ultimately up to whomever is throwing the party to decide the location, but it should reflect the type of wedding that you’re going to have, so you can nudge them in the right direction.

So, what wedding tasks need to be completed before throwing this party? Technically none, but everyone throughout the night will be asking you where and when you’re getting married, so you’ll want some kind of idea beforehand.

If you’re hosting the party, be sure to create a separate budget for it like you’re doing for your wedding. (Just on a much smaller scale!) Let the type of party be your guide when it comes to what type of decor to buy, food and beverage to serve, and whether to mail invitations or simply send an e-vite. You can specify any specific dress codes on the invitation.

It’s completely your choice who you invite, but never invite anyone to the engagement party that you aren’t 100% sure you’ll be inviting to your wedding. The engagement party list should be much smaller than your wedding guest list.

There will typically be at least one toast at the party, usually leading off with the father of the bride. Once he has toasted, the floor opens to anyone else who would like to speak. At the end of the toasts, you and your fiancé should give a small speech and thank everyone for coming and joining you in your celebration.

Though gifts are not customary for an engagement party, some people may bring them, so it’s a good idea to register before the party. If the party is being hosted by someone else, you’ll need to give the hosts a small gift and a card to express your gratitude for throwing you such a special event.

Last but not least- enlist someone to take photos! You don’t need a professional to do this, but you’ll be so busy greeting and mingling with guests that you won’t have time to take enough photos at this significant event. Ask one of your friends to take posed as well as candid photos throughout the night to capture every magical moment.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

The “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” bridal tradition is an old superstition that represents good luck for the bride in her marriage. It’s not something that’s required or necessary, but it is a fun way to start off your wedding day. If you’re having trouble deciding what to use for each “something”, here are some ideas.

Something Old

Your “something old” should be something that has sentimental value. A passed down dress or engagement ring, a vintage handkerchief, or even old photos of your family’s weddings on a table at the reception are all thoughtful options.

Something New

Your dress totally counts for your “something new”! If you’re wearing a rented or passed down dress, other options are jewelry, shoes, a veil/headpiece, or even your newly written vows to your fiancé.

Something borrowed

Borrow an item from a married woman who means a lot to you whose marital joy you can carry with you through your “something borrowed.” A necklace, a brooch to put in your bouquet, a slip or petticoat, or even your veil can be borrowed.

Something Blue

Brides who incorporate blue into their wedding colors won’t have a problem with this, but there’s a great deal of ways other brides can get their “something blue”, too! Your shoes, bouquet flowers, garter, or “I Do” stickers for your shoe bottoms are all great choices.

The “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” tradition is a fun way to incorporate your loved ones in your ceremony. Your family will really appreciate being an extra special part of your day, and it’ll start you off on a great foot to your new marriage.